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Drivers reminded to put down distractions

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2018

METRO DETROIT — Traffic and safety observers are casting their full attention on safe driving habits this April, which is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

A new AAA survey finds that 88 percent of drivers responding think that distracted driving is increasing. In addition, almost half the respondents said they regularly notice other drivers texting or emailing while behind the wheel.

According to AAA, government statistics show distraction playing a role in about 14 percent of crashes, and federal stats also suggest a recent 2 percent drop in distracted driving-related crashes. But the auto agency suspects that such crashes are underreported due to difficulty in detecting them.

Gary Bubar, public affairs specialist for AAA Michigan, said the best advice for drivers who want to stay safe from distracted driving is to be alert — and that means not be distracted yourself. 

But he said that can be difficult as cars get more technology and options for entertainment, GPS and other informational feedback. Plus there is the temptation of reading or responding to text messages.

“Focus on your driving,” Bubar said. “Focus on what’s going on in front of you, being able to look down the road.” 

Bubar said the proper habit is to look down the road at least two to three seconds ahead. Distracted drivers may end up driving erratically, he explained.

 “One of the things that folks don’t realize is that for every mile that we drive, we average about 20 decisions,” he said. “And every two miles, we’re going to make a mistake. Normally they don’t involve a crash or even a close call, but be aware that we’re doing a lot decision making ... and that we’re human. We’re going to make errors.”

Shelby Township Deputy Police Chief Mark Coil said Operation Ghostrider, a multidepartment police campaign to fight dangerous and distracted driving, is expected to occur again along Hall Road/M-59 this spring.  

While Coil said teens are the largest age group reported for distracted driving at the time of fatal crashes, it’s the responsibility of everyone to drive without distractions, including middle-aged motorists and seniors.

“Obviously the most important thing you should be doing in a car is driving the car,” Coil said. “My call to action is, parents need to lead by example.”

Jim Santilli, CEO of the Transportation Improvement Association, said the most effective ways to reduce distracted driving are education and enforcement, with the latter including Operation Ghostrider activities.

“With education, obviously, we’re trying to get the message out by attending community meetings (and) speaking at schools where students are hearing from victims who have been impacted by distracted driving,” he said. 

Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.Michigan.aaa.com. Learn more about the Transportation Improvement Association by visiting www.tiami.us.